Latrell, SBW and more: Buzz’s NRL team of the decade
He was axed from the NSW State of Origin side, and his future at the Sydney Roosters is unclear, but Latrell Mitchell deserves his position in the NRL team of the decade.
Who can forget his performance in May this year against the Wests Tigers when he scored a hat-trick of tries, laid on two others and kicked seven goals to finish with a personal haul of 26 points at the SCG?
Many of us were writing him up as the world's best player. He has now won two straight premierships and finished top point scorer in the game two years running.
If his career trajectory continues, he will likely figure prominently in the team of the decade for the 2020s, too.
Mitchell's selection was one of the trickier ones I was faced with in naming my team of the decade.
Greg Inglis was one of the first players picked and was easily slotted in at centre.
Mitchell then edged ahead of the likes of Jamie Lyon and Justin Hodges for his ability to take over a game with some magic moments.
It was a decade marked by superstars who may not have contributed across the full 10 years but left legacies that will be discussed for as long as the great game is played.
Sonny Bill Williams returned to rugby league in 2013, played two seasons with the Sydney Roosters and went back to rugby with a premiership under his belt.
He only played 45 games for the Tricolours but his highlights reel from that unforgettable stint is unmatched.
The same goes for Semi Radradra.
After making his debut in the back half of 2013, Radradra burst on to the scene in 2014, scoring 19 tries.
It was the start of a magical run that featured 94 matches and 82 tries.
There's a reason every decent Fijian back now gets dubbed the next Semi Radradra - the first one was astonishing.
This project also made clear just how dominant the Melbourne Storm have been.
We all talk of the big three of Slater, Smith and Cronk, but Jesse Bromwich's 229 games of pure class played a big role in making the Storm the NRL club of the decade.
The Storm's winning percentage during the decade is a stunning 10 percentage points better than any other team (69.5 per cent compared to the Sydney Roosters' 59.4 per cent).
The Newcastle Knights were the decade's biggest underachievers, winning just 36.5 per cent of their matches.
They took the wooden spoon ahead of the Gold Coast Titans (37.4 win per cent) and Parramatta (40.2 per cent).
So who missed out?
Lyon and Hodges went close, Matt Scott and Brett Morris were unlucky, while the likes of Jarryd Hayne (whose best year was clearly 2009), James Graham, Luke Lewis, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker all had claims.
BUZZ'S NRL TEAM OF THE DECADE
1, Billy Slater
Without doubt the most hotly contested position in the team of the decade. The Melbourne Storm, Maroons and Kangaroos fullback had to beat Dally M champions James Tedesco and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for the fullback jersey. Could be a future Immortal.
2. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
(Sydney Roosters 2012-15, Warriors 2016-19)
Started his career at the Roosters and played three seasons on the wing before making fullback his specialist position and winning the 2018 Dally M award. Remarkable he has been so dominant in a Warriors team that so often has struggled.
3. Greg Inglis
(Melbourne 2010, South Sydney 2011-19)
A true champion who played most of his club and representative football in the centres, although he won both Dally M fullback and Dally M five-eighth of the year. Played 39 Test matches for Australia and 32 Origin matches for the Queensland Maroons.
4. Latrell Mitchell
(Sydney Roosters 2016-19)
Won two straight premierships. Finished top point-scorer in the game two years running. Has twice scored 26 points in a game, the most by any Roosters player since Mike Eden in 1983. Phenomenal achievements for a 22-year-old who hasn't yet played 100 NRL games.
5. Semi Radradra
(Parramatta Eels 2013-17)
An absolute dynamite player on the Parramatta Eels wing before switching to rugby union. Had a magnificent strike rate of 82 tries in 94 NRL games, including 26 in his final season in 2017. Big, powerful and super quick, he was almost impossible to contain.
6. Johnathan Thurston
(North Queensland 2010-18)
A future Immortal without doubt. Some rate him an even superior player to the eighth Immortal, Andrew Johns. Played 38 Tests for the Kangaroos and 37 matches for the Queensland Maroons during their era of dominance.
7. Cooper Cronk
(Melbourne 2010-17, Sydney Roosters 2018-19)
Won three straight grand finals from 2017 to 2019 with the Storm and Sydney Roosters. The unbelievable performance to play the 2018 grand final with a broken shoulder is arguably the most courageous act in the history of the game. A magnificent leader.
8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
(Sydney Roosters 2010-19)
No other front-rower in the modern era has won three premierships in seven years. A fearless forward in attack and defence who has provided the middle field dominance for the Roosters since he joined from Manly in 2010. He has played 32 Tests for the Kiwis.
9. Cameron Smith
First player chosen for obvious reasons, even in this field of champions. Many now rate the Melbourne Storm skipper as the greatest rugby league player of all time. The 36-year-old hooker has now played 411 NRL games, 56 matches for Australia and 42 for the Maroons.
10. Jesse Bromwich
(Melbourne Storm 2010-19)
Dally M prop of the year in 2016 and the most consistent front-rower in the competition since beginning at the Storm in 2010. He has since played 229 NRL games. There is no question the likes of Cronk, Slater and Cameron Munster would not have achieved as much without the platform he lays.
11. Boyd Cordner
(Sydney Roosters 2011-19)
Australian, NSW Blues and Sydney Roosters skipper who has had a magnificent run in recent years in Tests, Origin and the premiership. A dangerous edge forward and an inspiring leader. The 27-year-old has played matches since joining the Roosters in 2011.
12. Sonny Bill Williams
(Sydney Roosters 2013-14)
Played only two seasons this decade with the Sydney Roosters but was the man most responsible for delivering the 2013 premiership. That year he was named RLIF player of the year. More responsible than anyone else for changing the culture at the Roosters.
13. Sam Burgess
(South Sydney 2010-19)
The recently retired South Sydney forward is right up there with Malcolm Reilly, Ellery Hanley, and Tommy Bishop among the greatest English players to play in the NRL. Won the Clive Churchill Medal in 2014 after leading the Rabbitohs to victory with a broken eye socket.
14. Jason Taumalolo
(North Queensland 2010-19)
The first forward in the NRL to sign a $10 million contract. An explosive attacking player for the Cowboys who will often top 200 metres. His presence convinced other NRL stars to choose Tonga ahead of other nations to give international rugby league its biggest boost in decades.
15. Paul Gallen
(Cronulla Sharks 2010-19)
Sharks warhorse who led the club to their first premiership in 50 years in 2016. Also broke Queensland's long dominance in State of Origin by leading the Blues to victory in 2014. Three times Dally M lock of the year. Winner of the Harry Sunderland and Wally Lewis Medals.
16. James Maloney
(New Zealand Warriors 2010-12, Sydney Roosters 2013-15, Cronulla Sharks 2016-17, Penrith Panthers 2018-19)
Played more games and more minutes than any other player in the NRL over the decade and won premierships at the Sydney Roosters and Cronulla Sharks.
17. James Tedesco
(Wests Tigers 2012-17, Sydney Roosters 2018-19)
Would walk into any starting side but this one. Is currently the best player in the NRL and has won the last two premierships. Reigning Dally M champion and has won the last two Brad Fittler Medals. Only 26 and could finish up as great a player as Slater.